Georgia’s Summer Surprise

Experience the hospitality of one of the South’s most refreshing resorts just outside one of America’s oldest and most intriguing towns.

Savannah has always seemed strangely comfortable living between two opposites. Cooled by the lush green shade of live oaks and cold currents of river water that flow down to the coast, Savannah blithely lounges amid a sweltering Georgia heat. If the locals make luxuriating look easy (and they do), understand that they have centuries of experience finding that deft balance—between Old Colonial Europe and the New World, past and present, guest and host, home and vacation, history and memory. So, for the RVer searching for the old soul of the American South—with all its charm and contradiction—there’s no better city to explore.

Georgia just might be the strangest of the original thirteen British colonies. A penal colony that originally outlawed slavery, befriended the natives, and fought the Spanish, it’s a quick reminder just how interesting—and deliciously complex—history can be. And make no mistake: Georgia’s first city is as intriguing today as it was then—if not more so.

Movie watchers may know the town’s face from films like “Forrest Gump” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” But every savvy RV adventurer should know that Savannah—like its most charming and stylish campground—always rewards you for sticking around a little longer. (That’s Rule No. 1.) Because just when you think you know everything about little ole Savannah, like history, it surprises you.

The Grand Entrance

Descending on the last legs of its Atlantic-hugging course, Interstate 95 cuts across the northwestern corner of Savannah. Southbound in your camper, you’ve entered the land of eternal pine and uninhibited humidity. Veering right toward Exit 94 toward Pembroke onto Georgia 204 West, you keep right and are quickly confined on each side by two lofty walls of trees. Then less than a mile out, on your driver’s side, the land breaks open. Clear acreage with white, ranch-rail fencing levels out the view and makes room for blue sky to finally touch the earth. Turning left into the drive, you arrive at CreekFire Resort. And what a grand entrance it is.

Susie, the manager of the resort and originally a native of Maine, confesses that since she moved south that she’s had to get used to some new things—like the locals. (We’re talking about alligators, snakes, and all their cool-blooded cousins, here.) But even now, she remains in awe of the resort’s entrance. She laughs, “Pulling up to CreekFire is one of the greatest things. When you pull in, you’ve got that white fence lining both sides of the streets. Straight ahead, you see a big, big white building, almost like an old historic house—very similar to what you’ll find in downtown Savannah.”

“Pulling up to CreekFire is one of the greatest things … Straight ahead, you see a big, big white building, almost like an old historic house—very similar to what you’ll find in downtown Savannah.”

Driving through the brick entryway, you’ll park in a spacious cul-de-sac with four wide pull-through spots that run parallel to the house. While its squarely angled roof and omnipresent porch may evoke the local sense of architecture, the white house is one of the most recent—and stylish additions—around town. When CreekFire Resort opened its doors in October 2017, Matt Litman, the original owner, built it to be an RV resort for families. (Hence the roomy parking accommodations.) Cove Communities took over a year ago, making it one of their 55 prized properties that span the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. on the other side of the Atlantic.

Exiting your RV, you walk straight into the white house. Inside, the front desk meets you directly. Six fulltime employees work the desk, and guests often find themselves getting checked in by the very person that booked them on the phone. The great house is open and airy, flooded with light from antique windows. Looking out and towards the back, you’ll start to get your first glimpse of the expansive amenities behind the house.

Get a closer look at CreekFire Resort.

If the white house is like a hospitable host that greets you, the recreational facilities are like the music of children in the backyard. (Not that the fun is for kids alone.) A heated pool lies directly behind the house, coupled with a hot tub. To the left are tennis, pickleball, and basketball courts. To the right, there’s a sand volleyball court. Going deeper you’ll find a bar and grill, billiards room, laundry, bathhouse, and firepit. Yet still deeper a lazy river completes a languid circuit with a clear view of a giant splash pad for kids. After receiving your placard, car pass, map, and directions, you’ll be eager to get parked in one of the resort’s 211 campsites so you can explore more.

Naturally, amid all this abundance, you may feel like you’ve seen it all. You haven’t.

Surprise: There are two sections to the resort, and the second isn’t immediately visible. Farther back, cloaked by tree cover, there’s a lake. There, you’ll find more campsites, seven cabins for rent, and a nature trail that tracks the circumference of the water. However, the lake itself is not for swimming. (Because, you know, alligators.) But the best surprise of all is the restaurant on the water, aptly named The Lake House. Open Thursday to Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., The Lake House serves Southern specialties like shrimp and grits, peach cobbler (this is Georgia, after all), and locally caught fish. Any guest can come, drink, and dine in the open air—all while watching gators cruise by like Confederate ironclads.

Gators on the golf course?!? Watch a gator put-put across the green.

Trollies, Town Squares, and Traveler Cups

Whether you’re ambulating around CreekFire Resort or trekking the cobblestone walkways of Savannah’s historic district, things move along at a more leisurely pace. And that’s good because each experience is to be served and savored like a thick drop of molasses.

From the resort, guests have the option of being picked up by Old Town Trolley (for a small but sensible fee). The trolley takes visitors directly downtown, picking up folks from the resort between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. for a hospitable one-hour tour. Afterwards, you can hop off and take in the city on foot, hopping back on whenever you like to jump over to the next city square of choice. (There are 22 in all.) It’s a lazy convenience to be indulged and gives you remarkable freedom to explore. Because the trolleys are everywhere, you can easily find the next one as you crisscross the town, take in the gorgeous antique architecture, and share the road with horse-drawn carriages. You can stroll through the beautiful and iconic parks, like Forsyth, and sit on benches once shared by Forrest Gump.

Spending so much time on foot is also a great opportunity to immerse into the best part of Savannah: the culture. And Susie, CreekFire’s manager, says there’s no better place to do that than the city’s exquisite Forsyth Farmers’ Market. (All while stocking up on fresh food for the galley while you’re at it—see Page 35.) Recalling her first time there, Susie says she was surprised that not only was there fresh produce, a wide variety of cheeses, jams, and kimchi; the market was also flooded with artists of all types teeming the street. Young painters from the Savannah College of Art and Design come out to sell their work. Susie laughs, “There are vendor poets who will write you something on the spot!”

4 Things You Just Gotta Do

Take a Savannah Riverboat Cruise
There are brunch cruises and sunset cruises, gospel cruises and sightseeing cruises. Whichever floats your boat, you’ll wanna choose one.

Sit on the “Forrest Gump” Bench
I may not be a smart man, but I know what fun is. It’s sitting on that bench in Chippewa Square, taking selfies, and talking to total strangers in a Bama accent.

Have a Drink at the Prohibition Museum
Order whatever you like at this irony-soaked speakeasy, but when it comes time to make a toast, raise your glass and say, “To prohibition!”

Hit Tybee Island’s Beachfront
Just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah—and 45 minutes from CreekFire Resort—spend a day or two cooling your travel-weary self in the Atlantic.

Susie also shares an important local secret: If you’re eating downtown, get reservations in advance. That’s an absolute, whether you’re eating crab cakes at Vic’s on the River on Savannah’s magnificent riverfront or at the Olde Pink House, one of the oldest and best venues for Southern comfort food (and also, the old headquarters for the occupying Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman). Great dining options are everywhere, whether you’re hankering for fancy alligator fritters at Alligator Soul or a premium pimento cheese sandwich at Husk.

Savannah’s bar scene is simply the stuff of Southern legend. Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar & Cocktails keeps a special Fish House Punch on tap, along with a menu of colorfully named cocktails—like Painkiller. And Captain’s Lounge makes a good follow-up. But the one to absolutely not miss is getting a drink at—wait till you hear this one—the American Prohibition Museum. (No, we’re not kidding. It has a speakeasy.) Wherever you go, keep in mind Rule No. 2 (from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”—the film: If you have to leave a party, you always take a traveler. In Savannah, if it ain’t in glass, you can take your libation with you.

Cooling Off in the Blue Blazes

With all this fancy footwork you’re doing downtown under the Georgia sun, your return to CreekFire Resort will never be more welcome. You may have heard a local say, “It’s not the heat … it’s the humidity.” The truth is that it really can feel hotter than the blue blazes in the Summertime, but the resort has the exact accommodation guests need for an epic cool down. It can be neatly summed up in two words: lazy river.

Sure, there’s the splash pad where the kids can safely get wet and go wild within sight. Sure, there’s the swimming pool and the spa. But that lazy river. Man! That’s the ticket. Susie and the resort staff themselves can’t help but smile as they watch their guests soak it in. “Our pools are definitely our main attraction. In the summertime, our splash pad area is usually filled with the younger kids and, of course, their parents.”

Then she chuckles, “The lazy river, you know, you would think that would just be for kids, but—quite frankly—I probably see more adults in that river. It’s located right next to our pool bar and grill, so a lot of times they go get their frozen drink, cocktail, or beer, get in their little floatation, and relax on the lazy river with their cold drink in hand.”

Yes, and yes. Just what the doctor ordered.

Even more, Susie says that everyone enjoying themselves at the pools and recreation areas has an impact on resort culture. “It really turns into a family resort. There are kids everywhere over in the sports courts area playing games. Obviously in our splash pad or on our lazy river.” She pauses, “It really turns into a community of families.”

Folks come from all over the world to experience that kind of community. Older couples and retirees often snowbird over Winter and then stay on. Traveling nurses frequently check in too. Families come from everywhere—whether that’s the neighboring Carolinas or from Canada and the U.K. They all keep coming back. Back to that lazy river. Back to The Lake House and its gator-filled waters. Back to the damp heat and the cold drinks. To the resort that fills their calendar with karaoke, dance parties, water aerobics, and RV rallies. To the place where their trash is picked up and their propane can be filled before they hit the road again.

Small wonder they return each season. The draw is no mystery. It’s Savannah’s ever-so-predictable recipe for comfort and hospitality that—somehow—always still leaves a little room for surprise.

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